by Jon Biddle
Four years ago, I sat in an auditorium. Part of the Sudden Onset Disaster charity that I work for, the keynote speaker was billed by a surgeon who when we saw him, didn’t really fit the mould that I had created in my head.
Mr David Nott took to the stage. A quiet, almost shy man spoke. The narrative didn’t really fit the persona that I was looking at. Quietly spoken, a hint of Welsh rolled out of the speakers talking about the perilous dangers of having a baby in the Central African Savannahs. His story captivated the room. Here was a demure man who has dodged bullets bombs, stared down the Taliban and carried on his principle ethical mission – to save life and to do no harm.
So when Mr Nott’s book was published, I read it. And read it again, and I will probably read it again. If this isn’t made into a film in my lifetime, I will be very disappointed.
Mr Nott is even a qualified commercial pilot, and in his spare time has may be flown you to your sunny holiday destinations. Spare time for a surgeon, that’s a thought.
Having sunk his teeth into the conflict medicine in the former Yugoslavia, he then went where ever in the world where there was war. Because where ever there is war, there is death and destruction. And the world forgets about these people. It takes the heart and the courage of the likes of Mr Nott to get on a plane, and treat battlefield casualties in the fringes of conflict. In conflict’s that has no rules where even he cannot get life insurance. The percentage that he lives in is wholly stacked against him and this doesn’t seem to bother him, the calling is far greater.
I worked in a wet lab under his instruction. A wet lab is a laboratory with cadavers. People that have donated their body’s to science, for us, charity workers to practice our skills on. His words echo around my head all the time when I work in the comfort of a first world hospital. Where there is always someone on the telephone – “Nothing is more important to you than what is in front of you right now,” sage words.
The book made me cry. How he made it through the Congo and then operating while a Taliban chief stood over his shoulder. His mask was the only thing that saved him. If the Taliban chief knew that Mr Nott was an Englishman, he would have put him to death immediately.
I would say, this book is one of the most poignant books I have ever read. There are some individuals that come into your life that make you sit up and take notice. The nonchalance of this man adds to his stature. When we talk about statues, Mr David Nott will be outside the main entrance to Guy’s and St Thomas’s Hospital. If I am still alive, it will be an event I will certainly attend.
The book is well written and follows a little like a novel. You have to keep reminding yourself this this is really happening. I would also reccomend the audio version too. Narrated by the man himself.